Alvan Kent Penn LEE

LEE, Alvan Kent Penn

Service Number: SX8316
Enlisted: 8 July 1940, Wayville, South Australia
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 2nd/9th Australian General Hospital
Born: Clare, South Australia, 20 June 1908
Home Town: Clare, Clare and Gilbert Valleys, South Australia
Schooling: Stanley Flat State School and Clare High School
Occupation: Gardener
Died: Natural causes, Warradale, South Australia, 25 July 2002, aged 94 years
Cemetery: Centennial Park Cemetery, South Australia
F path 26 Grave 1053.
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World War 2 Service

8 Jul 1940: Enlisted Private, SN SX8316, Wayville, South Australia
8 Jul 1940: Enlisted Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Private, SN SX8316
9 Jul 1940: Involvement Private, SN SX8316
13 May 1944: Discharged Private, SN SX8316, 2nd/9th Australian General Hospital
13 May 1944: Discharged Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Private, SN SX8316

Alvan Lee

Alvan Kent Penn Lee was born at "Arkaringa" at Stanley Flat on the 20th June 1908. The Kent in his name referred to the county in England from where his family came.
He was the second of three children born to Alice and Alfred who were farmers in the picturesque, fertile Clare Valley in the mid-north of South Australia. Their "home garden" was on the Main North Road at Stanley Flat, some four kilometres north of Clare. The Hutt River runs through the property, dividing it in two – the east side where the home and garden were situated and the west side which was open grazing.

The property was vacant land when Alfred, Alvan’s father leased it in the first instance. Initially the family lived in what eventually became the wash house before the main house was built. A carob tree hedge was planted on the northern and western sides of the house.

Currant vines covered 4 acres, with another acre of mixed stone fruit trees. The rest was grazing land for the stock which included two cows, two horses, a few pigs and mixed poultry. The currants were dried on racks built on the area between the vines and the creek. A huge mulberry tree grew at the end of the drive, and fig trees were planted along the track to the creek.

The Hutt River (or creek as the family called it) had a permanent deep water hole within the boundary of the home garden. This was always attractive to the children who spent hours playing along the banks of the creek. One of the favourite tricks was to try to bounce a stone off the surface of the water up the other bank. One time Alvan threw a rock up the bank hitting the old cow between the horns. She staggered around, went over, got up and staggered some more before recovering. He also accidently knocked a bantam rooster out one day with a stone. The boys stuck it under the cold water tap to revive it.

As often happened, when the Hutt River was in flood, the cows would often be stranded on the other side of the creek so the boys would have to bring them home the long way round via the road if there was a "banker”. However if the creek was low, the cows would be pushed into the water, while the boys grabbed their tails and were towed across.

The three children started school at Stanley Flat before transferring to Clare. They travelled to school by horse and buggy until 1921, when their Father died at age 54 of a liver complaint. Aden was 14, Alvan 12 and Mervyn 10.

With their father’s illness and subsequent death, the family had to sell their 12 month old foal named ‘Robin’ who had never been taught to ‘lead’, so the boys set to work in their spare time to teach him. Then they led the foal behind the spring dray, taking it in turns walking to Rochester, a distance of about ten miles, then returned home again.

On one occasion, Alfred wanted to buy a trolley, so he and Alvan caught the train to Adelaide and spent a day going around the "used trolley yards" arranging for it to be sent up to Clare (by train). It was soon after they returned home that Alfred took ill. On a subsequent occasion during the hot Christmas holidays, Alvan and brother Mervyn went to Sevenhill to get a load of wattle sticks to prop up the fruit trees as they hadn't been pruned for several years. In those days wattle trees were cut and the bark removed for use in the tannery. The trees which were anything from 8, 10, 12 feet were then stacked. As the family hadn't had the trolley for long, the two young brothers didn't know much about it, including how to load. They loaded the trolley, which had sides about a foot high made out of flooring boards, and headed home. They had to cross a creek and became bogged. Old Rocket the horse couldn't pull the loaded trolley through, which meant unloading, reloading and re-tying the wattle. In the meantime a storm, replete with thunder and lightning started, resulting in the Main Road of Clare being a foot under water. Conscientiously the boys stopped and collected the mail before heading home, pulling up alongside the carob hedge standing in a foot of water. With the help of their mother, Alice and sister Aden they got the trace chains undone when a clap of thunder rent the air. The old horse took off. Fortuitously no one was harmed.
After their father’s death, Aden took over many of the home duties, as part of Albert’s will stated that the farm could not be sold until the youngest (Mervyn) turned 21. Aden left school to help Alice run "the garden". Alvan and Mervyn then acquired a bike each and rode to school – about four miles on a pot-holed metal road. They all worked in the garden on weekends and school holidays. Both boys eventually left school on their 14th birthdays to go out working in other gardens to keep the family property going.

The 1930s were a good season for dried fruit in terms of quantity, but the weather was too wet and the currants had to be dried artificially. A dehydrator was situated in the packing sheds at the Clare railway station and was kept going 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In 1932 the family won the Clare Agricultural and Horticultural Award for a Box dried currants.
Alvan "took on" a garden south of Clare on a share basis for 12 months, and then rented another garden at Stanley Flat around 1938. He was an active contributor to the local community being a Scoutmaster at Stanley Flat and also active in his local Methodist Church and Sunday School from about 1917-18 through to the early 1920s as a Sunday School worker, Church Steward and Trust Treasurer. The Reverend John Peters presented Alvan with a copy of the New Testament and Psalms.

He enlisted in June, 1940, (8th July??) serving his time as a cook in the Middle East and New Guinea. At a New Year’s Ball, the local Stanley Flat community formally farewelled him. Speeches were made by the Returned Soldiers and Sailors Imperial League of Australia. He was also presented with a parcel from the Clare Country Women’s Association, the Stanley Flat Presentation Committee and Women’s Agricultural Bureau and the Fighting Forces Comfort Funds, Clare Unit. He became Private SX8316.
As a serving cook, one of his frustrations was in getting food from the cooking tent to the mess tent for the troops as waiting vultures would watch and swoop as he ran between each tent. While of necessity he had to use powdered eggs, his love of fresh, home grown produce was constantly remembered.

While on leave Alvan met his future wife, a nurse, Anne Werden Wilson (Voluntary Aid Detachment) at Woodside. Anne had been brought out from England as a nursemaid by the Masterman family at Undalya in the southern Clare Valley. They married at Auburn in December 1943.
At the conclusion of hostilities, Alvan acquired his own 80 acre farm at Stanley Flat through the returned soldier loans offered by a grateful government. The property had previously been set up as a working farm, with the start of a winery on the property. While Alvan continued to do all he could at the family garden he also grew currants and initially Grenache and shiraz grapes which were later removed. The picked currants were put on drying racks before being packed and transported into the Fruit Cooperative in Clare. Alvan also grew crops, being the last farmer in the Clare Valley to plough with Clysdale horses. The hay was cut and sheaved and used for feed. Eventually Alvan built a dairy, milking five Jersey cows each day, then used a traditional hand separator to separate the milk into traditional milk cans which would be left at the top of the drive for collection. When he eventually bought a milking machine it remained unused as he believed it was less time consuming to wash just two milking buckets rather than a complex machine!
Part of his property remained with native vegetation of blue gums, golden wattle, prickly acacias which were ideal for the bees he also kept.
Alvan finally sold his farm in the 1980s, moving to Adelaide (Warradale) with Ann and his older maiden sister, Aden. He died 25th July 2002 and is buried at Centennial Park F path 26 Grave 1053.
Story submitted by Graham and Kaye Lee (nephew)

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